I have a whole list of backlogged recipes to blog about, but the longer I wait, the more I cook, and it just becomes more overwhelming. Don’t worry – I’ll get back to all of that. And there are more gift posts just coming out of my ears. But first, I want to climb up on my soapbox and talk about hunger. I have a number of soapboxes to climb, and most of them are probably interesting only to me. (Don’t get me started on the Elf on a Shelf.) But this one is near to my heart, and it’s best if I share it.
Everyone knows that I love feeding people. If you’re reading this, chances are good that you like food, too. If you’re reading this, you probably have enough resources to feed yourself and your family. You probably know what it feels like to miss a meal, and you probably know how crummy you feel if you miss eating well for a day or two. Try to imagine feeling that way on a regular basis. Imagine the anxiety of not being able to feed yourself, or worse: not being able to feed your children.
I think most of you are with me. This isn’t a Christian or non-Christian thing. It’s not a liberal or conservative thing. I suppose you could make it into that, but to me, this is a human thing. And although it should be on our hearts all year long, there seem to be more food drives around the holidays, and so I’m bringing it up now. Some of my fondest memories with my dad are around the holiday season, “playing Santa.” I never really knew when it would happen – sometimes on a Saturday morning, and sometimes on a weekday after school. We’d get in the car, or more often the pickup truck with the plow on it, and I’d ask where we were going. “We’re playing Santa today,” he’d say. Sometimes we’d go to his accountant’s office and drop off whatever weird cheese and nut combination was all the rage that year. But more often than that, we’d go through the aisles of his grocery store, and he’d tell me, “Pick out something that would be a treat for a kid your age.” We’d walk through each department, looking at staples and soap, and a random holiday treat or two. Then, we’d deliver them to wherever my dad thought there was a need. In a small town, you tend to know where there’s a need.
I was reminded of this a few weeks ago, when a friend had a birthday coming up. Like me, she has two small kids at home. She posted on facebook about her upcoming birthday, and asked us, her friends, to buy a can of formula for our local food shelf, “because there’s nothing better than helping Mommas feed their babies.” Wow. What a birthday wish! And so, on my next trip to Costco, I picked up a can of their infant formula, along with a few other shelf-stable staples, and dropped them in the donation bin at Ben’s school. If you haven’t fed a baby in a while, you might not realize just how expensive formula is, and it’s one of those things that when you need it, you really need it.
Since becoming a mom, I consistently find myself in a state of amazement. How can my children be so beautiful, and so loving, and drive me so crazy all at the same time? How can I love them so much? Where do they get all this energy? The answer to that last one is easy. They eat. All the time. I can no longer get away with one big grocery shopping trip per week – it’s now several just to keep us in fresh fruit. I’m thankful to have enough. Enough time to go to the grocery store, even if I might not want to go. Enough gas in the car to get there. Enough money to buy food. Enough time to prepare it. A warm house where I can serve it, and a refrigerator to store what we don’t eat. Enough. And that’s as amazing as anything.
And when you start to think about the world in terms of “enough,” you tend to want to share it with those might not have enough. It doesn’t really matter why or how they don’t have enough. If you’re concerned about that, I hope for your sake that you never experience that kind of want. If you need to hear a few “there but for the grace of God go I” stories, I’m happy to share some. If you have trouble picturing yourself as “one of the least of these,” I hope you’ll read these words by Sarah-of-the-birthday-formula-request. If you’re worried or suspicious about the people receiving the benefits of your generosity, I hope you’ll read this.
So… how to help?
Enlist your kids’ help – what would they like to donate? Help them sort through books and clothes they don’t use any more, too – it’s an Advent tradition at our house.
Think about diapers, wipes, and laundry detergent. Think about baby formula.
When you go to Costco and get 12 cans of tuna or 8 cans of mandarin oranges or 1,000 rolls of toilet paper, set a few aside for the food pantry.
Call your local food shelf and ask what they need. They may need more help than donations. They will probably be glad you asked.
Set a reminder on your calendar to do the same in January, February, and March, which are (anecdotally at least) lean times for food pantries.
Pack a celebration – birthday cake mix, oil, frosting, and candles. Maybe a foil cake pan and some nonstick spray.
Think about someone who doesn’t have their own refrigerator, or someone who has to travel a long way to get home. Dried fruit and nuts are great healthy choices that will keep for a long time.
If you’re so inclined, pray. Pray that we may all have enough.